Game: Resident Evil 5
Platforms: Xbox 360 (reviewed), PS3.
Co-op seems to be all the rage these days. Ever since competitive multiplayer came around there has been a vocal group seeking after the ability to share an adventure with a friend in a co-operative manner. A handful of games have given the buddy-gaming world a spin. With consoles having online capabilities we've seen demand for more co-op experiences rise incredibly. Some games have had mixed results while others have missed the point.
Enter Resident Evil 5, a game that has been marching to the beat of the Co-op drum since Capcom first announced the feature years ago. Little did we know back then that this would not be the usual lukewarm trite co-op tack-on that other games were pulling out of their asses, but almost the entire selling point of the game. When the demo was released people got a taste of just how co-op would work, and the praise began to pour. Few worried that the whole game would become a drag with another person, or wouldn't be able to pull it off without the game becoming too obvious and ham-fisted in the way it dealt with two players.
Well the game is finally in our hands, so how well does the tightrope hold up with two people trying to cross it?
RE5 is really several different games in one, and it takes some time with the game to understand this (and master-of-unlocking it, but more on that later). Here's a breakdown of what you get in the full package:
Resident Evil 5, Single Player Edition: An intense 7 to 8 hour park ride that has 4 difficulties. Amateur, Normal, Veteran and Professional (unlockable). Features include Quick Time Events, A.I. partner, trading minigame (in real time with a stubborn trader!), and incredibly campy storyline that teeters on the edge of corny horror film and wacky Japanese tentacle porn.
Resident Evil 5, Cooperative Edition: An intense 7 to 8 hour park ride with the same 4 difficulties. Includes the exact same attractions and features but with another human being behind the wheel instead of a silly computer controlled partner.
Resident Evil 5, The Club Edition: Mercenaries mode is a race against the clock to kill as many infected as possible while getting time bonuses and combos to unlock more characters with different weapon layouts and new stages. Can be played by yourself or with another human player!
The Single Player experience will be a mixed one for most people. The A.I. partner jumps around from being mentally disabled to suicidal. A.I. Sheva is a decent healer, and is a good shot with whatever gun you give her. She does have some drawbacks, including her wanton use of ammunition and health supplies. She also makes mistakes here and there, getting stuck between a wall and a boss creature with a chainsaw or massive axe and getting killed. She's not exactly stupid, but far from the ideal partner. Some puzzles can trip her up, but a simple press of the B button can call her back to your side to try again. She has two modes of operation, one which has her stay closer to you and use ammo slightly less, while the other encourages her to seek out battles and blast everything in sight. You can also give her items to hold on to or use, or give her healing items to save both of your asses with. Some players will not mind her, other players will hate her.
You play through the game in chapters, with sub-chapters breaking things up as checkpoints to sell and buy items and upgrade your weapons. Each sub-chapter will score you on kills, deaths and how long it took you to finish it. You earn points based on the rank you receive which can be used to buy unlockables. Once you've beaten a sub-chapter you can replay it on any difficulty, allowing you to go through your favorite stage at any time.
Combat has been the source of much controversy, forcing you to stand still like a deer staring into headlights while you aim your weapon to take a shot. It feels a little outdated by today's standards but it takes a little adaptation to get used to.
The Cooperative experience is almost a completely different experience, with a second human player taking over Sheva. This allows players to form more complex strategies, use their ammo and weaponry wisely and share the thrill ride with a buddy. The person playing Sheva will play with Sheva on the right side of the screen, and this may be a little disorienting for players who are used to left-side characters like in Gears of War. The levels and puzzles are exactly the same as they are in the single player game, but the game plays perfectly fine that way as there isn't any tweaking needed to account for the second body. The game was built to be played this way, and should be played this way if possible. And with online and couch co-op ability, there's almost no excuse not to.
Mercenaries mode is exactly like Mercenaries from Resident Evil 4, where you play on simple stages with a timer counting down with the simple goal of killing as much as you can. You pick from a number of characters (most of them unlockable by doing well in the stages) who have different weapon layouts, and a handful of stages to kill in. After each run, you get a score, rank and some points. These levels contain a large amount of replayability, and can be played solo (without the AI Partner) or with a human partner.
Weapon upgrading is back, allowing you to buy increased firepower and ammunition count on your weaponry. I wish the game had a more in-depth customization system like MGS4 which let you buy custom hardware for your weapons and make the gun have a physical change to give it a different look and feel. But what is there is a solid system and will surely have players replaying levels over and over again to get money for upgrades.
Speaking of purchasing, there is a ton of content to unlock. The game allows you to purchase different things based on how many chapters you've beaten and on certain difficulties, number of BSAA emblems you've shot, etc. Once you unlock the ability to get that item you must spend the points you earn from beating the sub-chapters and in Mercs mode to purchase the content. There are highly-detailed "figures" of each character, alternative costumes, infinite ammo for fully upgraded weapons, graphics filters and more. For those who need everything unlocked in a game, this alone will keep you very busy.
The game looks fantastic, with some of the best looking character models in a current gen game, and some jaw dropping particle effects. The lighting is very well done and never overwhelms you with too much bloom. Each area you visit has its own feel and never do you feel like you're stuck in a generic hallway. There is some screen tearing issues and the enemies have some heavily overused animations but in the midst of a heavy battle it won't matter much to you as they pass by so quickly. Sound is also appropriate, weapons sound off with an appropriate kick and the voicework is never muddled by the music. Though some of the dialog delivery is corny, it's a series standard so I let it slide.
I will also note that Capcom has announced an online versus mode that will cost PSN members $4 and Xbox Live members 400 MS Points. The modes include a versus Mercenaries type mode which has people competing for a higher kill count/score, and a standard 1 on 1 or 2 on 2 deathmatch mode. Personally, I think this sounds like it would have the grace of a drunken elephant stumbling around a busy highway, with the gameplay of a third-person whack-a-mole game with shotguns. It doesn't sound worth the money to me, but the option will be available later, for a small price. So you can take this into consideration when you buy the game.
I've used the term replay a lot in this review, and that is what Resident Evil 5 has a lot of. From the ease of returning to whatever level you want, to 4 different difficulties and a massive collection of unlockables, there are a lot of reasons to play the game over and over again. And for a game with such a short story, this is a very good thing. It will all come down to how much you want to get the extra costumes and action figures, and if you have a friend to play the game with you or not. Resident Evil 5 is purely action and none of the scares from the original games in the series, but as far as action games go it's a hell of a ride.
Sorry for the long-winded review. I haven't done one for a game in a very long time. I do, however, do music reviews somewhat more often on my wordpress blog. I've considered cross-posting the album reviews to D-toid under the NVGR label, but I wasn't sure I wanted to without knowing if D-toid would care for them. They're usually much shorter than the above review, and I try to cover different genres though I know I won't be able to get them all or even a fraction of them as just one man. So let me know if you want to see my music reviews on the Cblogs, as well as the usual torch-and-pitchforks fest that happens with most reviews. Thanks for reading.